Aseethe is a doom band from Iowa City, Iowa. I know hardly anything about the genre called doom, or drone, or any of the other darker-than-dark and heavier-than-heavy offshoots of metal. In fact I’ve never been much of a fan of even hard rock, and doom is beyond hard, beyond heavy. It’s slow, grinding, distorted, low-frequency, repetitive, dread-inducing rock. Its antecedents are in Black Sabbath, but the music on Aseethe’s Hopes of Failure seems to come from several circles lower down in Dante’s Inferno.
I found out about this band because I keep an eye on certain independent labels, among them Thrill Jockey, where Aseethe has landed for its fourth release. This was early in the new year, when the days were still cold and dark, which exactly matched my mood. As I’ve confessed elsewhere, I’ve long been drawn to drone-type music, so when Thrill Jockey said Aseethe works elements of drone into its riff-heavy doom, I thought I’d check it out.
Aseethe is guitarist Brian Barr, drummer Eric Diercks, and Brian’s brother Danny Barr on bass. Key elements of doom include low tunings and lots of distortion on the guitar and bass, and lots of unison playing by those two, setting up an unrelenting wall of crushing sound. These guys excel at that. Drummer Diercks seems to have some modernist and jazz sensibilities, adding another dimension to the sound with a layer of cymbal fizz and crash, on top of the relentless rock pounding.
The vocals in this music, when there are vocals, tend to be delivered in a guttural, growling wail that’s all but unintelligible to the uninitiated, and they also tend to be in unison with the melodic line played by the guitar and bass, which further masks them. Suffice to say they reflect the music’s inward-looking focus on themes of despair and depression.
Hopes of Failure has four tracks, totaling about 43 minutes, just right for a vinyl LP. Two shorter tracks of eight and nine minutes, “Towers Of Dust” and “Barren Soil” are sandwiched between two longer ones, “Sever The Head” at about 11 minutes, and “Into The Sun” at nearly 14. Both of those have quiet, almost contemplative mid-sections, which in both cases give way again to shattering noise.
On the quieter interlude midway through the album closer “Into The Sun,” ghostly vocals rise from the sludge, actually sung in relatively “normal” style. They’re laden with so much reverb that they’re still hard to discern, though; I hear something like “the mindless trudge along, reaching for …” something I can’t make out. The accompanying static-like noise rises to another doom-laden riff of bass and guitar in unison, beginning the lengthy outro of repeated full-bar chords punctuated by a very Sabbath-like quarter-eighth DAH-dum-dum riff, as the vocalist wails something that might be DIE!
Well, doom is certainly not for everybody, and I don’t listen to it with anything like regularity. It’s rather like surviving being knocked down by an unexpected wave when you’re swimming in the ocean – you emerge shaken but a bit ecstatic. But I think we need artists who see and express dark themes, whether during good times or bad. And this is high-quality, crafted music that honestly expresses the artists’ feelings and reactions to things going on in the world.
You can preview the music at their page on the Thrill Jockey website.
(Thrill Jockey, 2017)